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As reported in the Hartford Courant, the Connecticut
Supreme Court issued an opinion in State v.
Dickson, which overruled prior precedent and significantly
curtailed the use of in-court identifications in criminal cases,
adopting recommendations outlined in a brief authored by Paul,
Weiss. Paul, Weiss submitted an amicus brief in the case on behalf
of the Innocence Project, arguing that first time in-court
identifications, where the witness failed to successfully identify
the defendant in a pre-trial identification procedure, are so
suggestive and unreliable that they implicate due process concerns.
The court agreed, commenting, "[W]e are hard-pressed to imagine how
there could be a more suggestive procedure than placing a witness
on the stand in open court, confronting the witness with the person
who the state has accused of committing the crime, and then asking
the witness if he can identify the person who committed the crime."
The court noted that the "present case starkly demonstrates the
problem, in that [the witness] was unable to identify the defendant
in a photographic array, but had absolutely no difficulty doing so
when the defendant was sitting next to defense counsel in court and
was one of only two African-American males in the room."
As the court recognized, mistaken eyewitness identifications are a leading cause of wrongful convictions. Although the court affirmed Mr. Dickson's conviction after determining that the use of an in-court identification at his trial was harmless error, this court's opinion is a significant step in furthering the Innocence Project's mission of changing the law on the admissibility of identifications in order to reduce and eliminate wrongful convictions.
The Paul, Weiss team included litigation partner Jim Brochin; patent partner Jennifer Wu; and associates Marques Tracy, Laura Sedlak and Gregg Marmaro.